Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#21
My suggestion is to watch The 100. All 6 seasons. All characters on screen always seem to do bad things for good reasons. You'll learn very quickly how to write a morally grey character, in my opinion.

But honestly 
Quote:-He had to make a point, and blowing up that moon is the best action to make his point clear.-

 sounds like the motives of an antagonist. Killing people to 'make a point,' whatever the context, doesn't quite fit. My suggestion is to reevaluate the situation and write it differently.

You can write morally grey characters who kill or have killed people. But it needs to be done delicately. Their reasons shouldn't be trite.

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#22
Anthezar Wrote: But honestly 
Quote:-He had to make a point, and blowing up that moon is the best action to make his point clear.-

 sounds like the motives of an antagonist. Killing people to 'make a point,' whatever the context, doesn't quite fit. My suggestion is to reevaluate the situation and write it differently.

You can write morally grey characters who kill or have killed people. But it needs to be done delicately. Their reasons shouldn't be trite.

In terms of killing the natural scale is:

- The saint don't kill. Ever.
- The good characters kill only if there's no other way
- The ambiguous characters kill when it needs to be done
- The evil characters kill if it's profitable or convenient
- The sociopaths kill if it's doable or fun

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#23
ducpika Wrote: My MC has just blown up a moon, with it every being living on that moon.
Reason: He had to make a point, and blowing up that moon is the best action to make his point clear.
Question: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/17368/the-king-of-desires


I think it's a bit of a silly question :D
A morally grey character is a character who isn't evil - but does "evil" things to achieve their goal - in most cases a good one.
As long as the ratio of "reason to go bad thing" is equal to greater than "badness from bad thing" he's morally grey.

Kicked a puppy? - The puppy had a bomb strapped to its back and was about to explode a school.
Incinerated an orphan? - Guess what? the orphan was the carrier of a zombie virus - its only weakness - fire.
Started a zombie apocalypse? - Earth was about to nuke 3 other planets because corruption or something.
Ended the fucking universe? - he did it to usher in the next one since "generic bad guy" wanted to live forever and stop next-universe-life from getting a shot at life.
Vibe-checked god? - Guess what - god wanted to off humanity, sure he may have had a good reason - but preserving humanity is usually seen as good.
Literally deleted the book, all chapters are empty, nul, kein, 0, nada - Well... you get the gist.

Good luck!

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#24
Bigmouth Wrote:
tanemrin Wrote: Morality is a matter of opinion, and thus whether or not it is morally grey will be decided by your readers, irrespective of what you thought it might come across at time of writing. At best, you might influence them to agree with your stance by laying out the reasons why it had to be done, balanced with why it wasn't an entirely good move (hence, morally grey - you're not looking to fully justify the move).

For example, having only read your brief description above with absolutely no context, blowing up a moon apparently with living creatures on it would strike me as a morally black move. Whatever 'point' he was making doesn't change my opinion in the slightest.


Adding to this, because I think that last part about it being a morally black move is correct, the best thing that you could do to sway people is to prove, in a manner of another, that the beings on the moon were going to, or at least were capable, of something similar. If he just blew up a bunch of wholly innocent people there's literally zero grey morality there. They weren't a threat, any threat they may have posed he was clearly the superior being in the exchange, and there are ways he could have done similar without total annihilation. For example, the US could have bombed Japan into nonexistence at the end of WWII, but we didn't. We dropped two bombs. It's a morally grey decision because it saved lives on our end, but cost Japan possibly more lives than they would have lost continuing the war against us. It forced a peace without complete genocide. Your moon destroyer could do the same thing, blow a chunk out of the moon to prove a point, but he decided to wipe out the whole thing.

And that's not even mentioning the potential havoc losing a moon could have planetside.



Couldn't have said it better myself!


Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#26
ducpika Wrote: My MC has just blown up a moon, with it every being living on that moon.
Reason: He had to make a point, and blowing up that moon is the best action to make his point clear.
Question: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?


The answer in my opinion is 'it depends' ... I haven't read your story but to put forth a premise where such an action isn't evil.

An aggressive race decide to invade earth and enslave everyone. They have previous form for this and have in the past enslaved other worlds. The earth indicate they will defend themselves and see off a preliminary force, rather than wait for another attack they retaliate. Realising that the nearest enemy world contains a lot of creatures from an enslaved race they blow up a nearby moon containing only enemy combatants. The hope is this will intimidate the enemy and allow a ceasefire to be negotiated.

That isn't a 'good' action per-se as you've still killed a lot of people, however they are enemy combatants in a war and you're doing it in the hope of reducing future casualties.

(Real world equivalent - Hirsoshima)

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#27

LittleSettler Wrote: Yes.



Oh, did you want more of an answer than that?

Yes, certainly.


Churchill & dropping incendiary on residential areas is another example from WW2.

IMO intention plays a big part, and one of the ways its shown (or failed to be shown) is in the exploration of alternatives. If they fail to investigate, then its morally black regardless of whether or not there were alternatives. If the decision is rushed, likewise. And a good reason. Proving a point is a lame reason.

iirc, civilian areas was one of the last things the allies targeted. They'd tried destroying the german planes, the airfields, the factories, other infastructure, and finally the areas in which the personnel working in the factories lived... after all that they tried bombing everything. In the end, none of that worked decisively and they used another method entirely to destroy the luftwaffe (baiting them by bombing berlin).

In fact, even if someone else insists there are no other options the dude would have to question why - and who concurs. If there was ever a time to quadruple check something, its then.


I think this is the best summary of my opinion. How to write it depends on the character in question, but to convey a gray morality, you must explore the alternatives, and have the character acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong, but that there is not a "morally white" option. but as was said before, whatever your intent in the writing, be aware that your readers will likely come away with differing opinions, and don't work under the assumption everyone feels the same about the issue as you do. if its a major part of the story, you may even be able to expand on the reasoning by having the character (or one of their friends) show internal conflict on it later, then "convince" themselves it was the right action, and use that to try to realign the image of the character for readers who might have felt differently than you about it.

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#30
Morally "gray" I think this is a statement on the overall world your characters exist in, not specifically the character you are dealing with.

IN a morally gray world, every character has the burden of defining their own morality. That is tricky, because your WiP also conforms to your own moral point for the book. So, a "black" moral choice is impossible because each character has to justify their actions by their moral compass. Individuality separate the institution defines the nature of the people surviving in the gray world.

thinking of it as a "black" choice is already failing the idea. No choices are white or black in a gray world. It invites the reader to interject their own bias. That is the point. So, if your character can justify genocide within his own morality and it fits their goal and character arc, that is what the character must do. defining it as evil is the job of the author's voice and the reader's judgment.

It is a dispassionate take, but gray moralities invite dispassion. 

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#31
The answer is always no. Genocide is about as evil as you can get. Motivations and reasons are irrelevant.

Edit: just to clear the air a bit. Morally grey is when you have to bad things for good outcomes or insist on doing good things even if they have bad consequences. The old old "Do I kill 1 man to save a million" thing applies, morally grey people will always kill the one because they believe their actions balanced more to the positive than the negative. 

Blowing up a moon and all its life cannot POSSIBLY do more good than harm in the short or long term and is thus straight up evil. 

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#32

Galeigh Wrote: The answer is always no. Genocide is about as evil as you can get. Motivations and reasons are irrelevant.

Edit: just to clear the air a bit. Morally grey is when you have to bad things for good outcomes or insist on doing good things even if they have bad consequences. The old old "Do I kill 1 man to save a million" thing applies, morally grey people will always kill the one because they believe their actions balanced more to the positive than the negative. 

Blowing up a moon and all its life cannot POSSIBLY do more good than harm in the short or long term and is thus straight up evil.

Respectfully, you can do real injustice to a story's plot by this definition. To ignore the motivations of the character responsible is to make that character shallow. C.S. Lewis talked in the screwtape letters about this. It is pretty much what the whole book is about.

YOu can't have a greater action like genocide without a great deal of understanding. If your MC is the cause of it, it will be important for the readers to see how their actions and thoughts led to an action that destroys on that scale. Morally gray is necesarilly about the lack of black andd white thinking. It is far more complex than doing bad things for good reasons or doing good intended things that turn out evil.

Genocide is always a tool, not the end product a character desires. Blowing up a n inhabited moon isn't genocide unless there is a certain group of people on that moon that they wanted dead. it's just mass murder. Mass murder is also a tool, if you have a character powerful enough to do it. IN fiction, it is also a shortcut. Shortcuts are events or symbols writers use to overwhelmingly sway the reader to the author's moral case. Using "genocide" or "mass murder" by a character is a way to signal to your readers that this character is irredeemable.

If you want the character to also me morally "gray" there has to be a justification, otherwise there is no grayness, there is black and white morality. In a black andwhite morality you don't have to justify the action. The character is irredeemable.

The OP asked if it were possible to make a morally gray character guilty of genocide, the answer is still yes, but with major consideration and delicate outlining so that you don't ever look like the author is condoning the action that the character takes.

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#33

S. Wrote:
Galeigh Wrote: The answer is always no. Genocide is about as evil as you can get. Motivations and reasons are irrelevant.

Edit: just to clear the air a bit. Morally grey is when you have to bad things for good outcomes or insist on doing good things even if they have bad consequences. The old old "Do I kill 1 man to save a million" thing applies, morally grey people will always kill the one because they believe their actions balanced more to the positive than the negative. 

Blowing up a moon and all its life cannot POSSIBLY do more good than harm in the short or long term and is thus straight up evil.

Respectfully, you can do real injustice to a story's plot by this definition. To ignore the motivations of the character responsible is to make that character shallow. C.S. Lewis talked in the screwtape letters about this. It is pretty much what the whole book is about.

YOu can't have a greater action like genocide without a great deal of understanding. If your MC is the cause of it, it will be important for the readers to see how their actions and thoughts led to an action that destroys on that scale. Morally gray is necesarilly about the lack of black andd white thinking. It is far more complex than doing bad things for good reasons or doing good intended things that turn out evil.

Genocide is always a tool, not the end product a character desires. Blowing up a n inhabited moon isn't genocide unless there is a certain group of people on that moon that they wanted dead. it's just mass murder. Mass murder is also a tool, if you have a character powerful enough to do it. IN fiction, it is also a shortcut. Shortcuts are events or symbols writers use to overwhelmingly sway the reader to the author's moral case. Using "genocide" or "mass murder" by a character is a way to signal to your readers that this character is irredeemable.

If you want the character to also me morally "gray" there has to be a justification, otherwise there is no grayness, there is black and white morality. In a black andwhite morality you don't have to justify the action. The character is irredeemable.

The OP asked if it were possible to make a morally gray character guilty of genocide, the answer is still yes, but with major consideration and delicate outlining so that you don't ever look like the author is condoning the action that the character takes.




Within the conditions made by the author, the answer is no. I should have been clear about that. "Making a point" isn't a justification for blowing up an inhabited moon. To maintain a morally grey position the actions taken must have done, or intended to, do less damage than the outcome. "Making a point" is not going to prevent more harm than was caused by the actions taken. Conclusion: MC is evil at worst or immoral at best. 

How the MC feels afterwards, either conflicted or accepting, does not change this alignment. They are evil. 

They do not have to STAY evil though they will never been seen as good. Seeing the aftermath and the reactions could be the spark that sends the MC down the road to self reflection and maybe even some measure of redemption. THAT is how you cam build a morally grey character out of an objectively evil act. It is important to remember that fictional characters, like real people, do not have static unchanging alignments or beliefs. 

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#34

tanemrin Wrote: Morality is a matter of opinion, and thus whether or not it is morally grey will be decided by your readers, irrespective of what you thought it might come across at time of writing. At best, you might influence them to agree with your stance by laying out the reasons why it had to be done, balanced with why it wasn't an entirely good move (hence, morally grey - you're not looking to fully justify the move).

For example, having only read your brief description above with absolutely no context, blowing up a moon apparently with living creatures on it would strike me as a morally black move. Whatever 'point' he was making doesn't change my opinion in the slightest.

well the thing with the grey zone is, initially you always mistake this person for either  good or bad and later you come to know the other side. A really good person can become a  bad guy for a  very selfish reason. An innocent dude can blow up the moon by mistake too.

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#35
Science fiction has, over its history had a bucketful of such doings. E.E.Smith did it serially, Ender's Game did it, and while Ender did not know the simulation of the genocide was the real one, he signed up for it, and was certainly practicing to do the real thing, which, in fact, it turns out, he had. Usually some spin is put to genocide to make it "Situationally Ethical" such as  E. E. (Doc) Smith did, but we are talking 1940's SF here. Or as happens routinely in the Marvel Comics universe.  In Today's world, almost none of this sort of tripe gets a free pass, however spun.  Nor should it. I wont talk about weak minds being easy to bend, but having, at the least, a moral compass to protect oneself  from being bent by the first demagogue to climb a soapbox, would be the first low bar to being civilized. So in all honesty to myself, I couldn't see it as being anything but what it was, however justified, or by whom. Certainly not to make a "point". Almost every perpetrator of vile acts has an excuse or justification. This almost never means anything. I do not think "grey area" and "Mass genocide" belong in the same sentence. Ever.

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#36
How in the world was the idea of this thread ever a matter of debate? For anyone?

This perfectly sums up the problem with "grey morality" in a lot of fiction: it's the supposed "hero" doing awful things to show off how edgy and strong they are, when they have no sane justification for doing so, and it's somehow defended by shouting "well no one's perfect!"

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#37
I'm reading some really, really interesting post in here that say that attacking civilian populations can be justified. Examples being Churchill's campaign, Nagasaki/Hiroshima, etc. I'm also reading a lot of claims that morality is subjective, and is simply a matter of opinion. These are in and of themselves, morally black viewpoints, lending moral superiority to a winning power because it's not convenient to have an objective history. To even accept the winning side's rationales at face value demonstrates a naivety that can be considered morally gray, if only for ignorance.

Let's start with the idea of attacking civilian populations 'for the greater good.' Oftentimes, if one looks deeper into these situations, you'll find that the moral reasons why one side might have a 'greater good' are flimsy at best and are often tacked on after a war so that the history books ignore the war crimes committed by one side or another. Let's look at Germany. Public awareness of the Jewish Holocaust was nil before and during the war, and then toward the end and in its aftermath, the public became aware of it. Until that time, the conflict was about one government system disliking another, and fighting over territory. Germany was the clear aggressor in a territorial war of acquisition, and for that, their actions were morally black. But when it came to war crimes against German innocents, e.g. the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers across the Eastern Front, and by US soldiers in the invasion of Germany, these actions were, clearly, black. To bomb cities where innocents lived, that's also black. There's no justification for it. You can't label innocents, tack on the territorial aggression of their armed forces, and then claim that it's somehow morally gray. That's called lying. That's called murder.

When it comes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, let's look at certain alternatives that could have been done. The USA could have bombed any one of Japan's militarized islands. Why innocents? Why not the armed forces? Why not even the ocean a few miles outside of any one of Japan's port cities? The mushroom cloud would have been visible to the world wide press, it would have been visible to the naked eye of countless Japanese without murdering all those people. The common claim that not just one, but TWO cities full of innocents were wiped off the map, was somehow attributed to saving lives, is a mockery of morality. Japan did not have atomic weapons, and there was no possible timeline for them to gain them. The United States had Japan at its mercy, and instead of choosing to demonstrate a mere intimidation effect, they chose to kill women, children, the old, the defenseless. Morally gray? Are you serious?

Anyone who claims that these actions are merely 'gray' need to reassess their morality. Anyone who claims that morality is subject to 'personal point of view' (i.e. the victorious nation's history books), needs to reassess their morality.

One may object and say, "but Japan didn't surrender, and they wouldn't have surrendered if the USA hadn't done that". You have NO idea whether they would have or not. What matters is that the USA didn't even try for a demonstrative option on Japan's front door.

All this said, Japanese war crimes are themselves well documented, and there's no excuse for them either. But the actions of some people doesn't justify the wholesale murder of their innocent countrymen.

Re: Can Someone who commit a Mass Genocide be considered "morally grey"?

#39

Seth Wrote: One may object and say, "but Japan didn't surrender, and they wouldn't have surrendered if the USA hadn't done that". You have NO idea whether they would have or not. What matters is that the USA didn't even try for a demonstrative option on Japan's front door.


Yeah, let's waste a million-dollar bomb hitting nothing to "display our power." That's stupid and wasteful, and it sounds like you're someone that's never thought of logistics. HItting a military complex makes a fair point, but it also has just as much chance to do the opposite. "They attacked our soldiers, this is why we need to continue the fight!" You see that patriotism everywhere today. Why hit civilians? Because it makes a point, a morally grey one. We're willing to do this, we are willing to blow your island into pieces, and we have the means. But we didn't, not completely, so don't force us. It also makes the point to the citizens of Japan, convince your representatives to surrender, or else.

Morally grey is doing something bad with good intentions. The conflict of WWII had already taken its toll on America. We WERE NOT ready for another long drawn campaign of war, but Japan was more than willing. We had to make them unwilling. Again, it's logistics, we didn't have the supplies to invade, and such an invasion was costly as it was, we didn't have the morale to keep fighting, while Japan ignored the declaration for surrender and had the will to keep going. On top of that, Hiroshima wasn't JUST a civilian target, it had militaristic value as well being a port and industrial zone with a military HQ. As well, Nagasaki was the building place for Japan's naval forces. Neither of these were PURELY civilian areas. Again, you display a wanton disregard for the decision making behind these choices and tout some holier-than-thou mentality about the simple brutality of war that leads to morally grey actions. These are not heroic things, they are not good things, but you have two choices; a long drawn out war on foot that kills more soldiers, uses more resources, upsets both sides, and that your own intelligence community is saying you'll LOSE, or force them to give up. So, you do the bad thing. You kill a lot of people. You do it for the ones in your corner, to protect your side of the globe, you hope that people see the things you do are wrong, that they pay attention in history class, that they rightly fear the weapons you hold, that having such weapons will stop others from threatening your friends and family and your way of life, even if none of that washes away the blood. That's morally grey. There's a reason people are still debating these bombings and their justifications, and that's because morally ambiguous is exactly what they are.

I'm gonna go ahead and walk out of this thread now, because it's crossing into territory I don't like to play in. Scholars debate this shit, people with degrees and more information than two dillweeds on the internet have. The fact you felt the need to pompously accuse other people of pointing out what academic debate has yet to come to a conclusion on in a completely matter-of-fact way tells me more than enough. Folks a lot smarter than me, and I'm willing to bet you, disagree with your hardline stance. It's a complex issue that can't be answered, solved, or properly evaluated on a forum for writing stories. Nor should we be trying to. I only point out what I did because you acted like it was a morally black moment, and it's not so cut and dry. You have a lot of missing information in your assertion, and while I'd suggest doing research and reforming your opinion, I don't think for a minute that's going to happen. Because, in my experience, no one listens to, or cares, about walls of text on the internet, especially ones that disagree with them. I'm just pointing out the other side for the people lurking around reading.